Real-time travel information: Better for businesses, better for travelers

By Logan Dredske

Real-time travel information on digital screens placed in popular gathering areas allows for more efficient time management by transportation users of all modes. Tysons Corner Center, a shopping center in northern Virginia, uses Traveler Information Displays (TIDs) that provide traffic conditions and transit schedules to help customers plan their departures from the mall. VDOT, Redmon Group, and Iteris recently surveyed customers to evaluate the success of the TIDs with the goal of improving the system by adding new travel information, simplifying the display, and understanding if system locations in the shopping center were appropriate. The survey was deployed online and as hard copies in the mall for approximately three weeks.

Results indicated 77 percent of respondents said the TIDs “provide a valuable service” to them, and 63 percent said the information they viewed on the displays influenced their departure time. The survey also identified the most viewed TIDs were in high traffic areas, a desire to have more displays near travel access points, and a desire for equal display of transit and traffic information in order to serve a broader customer base. Overall, respondents viewed the TIDs as accurate and reliable.

Currently the TIDs display real-time travel information such as live traffic conditions, transit arrival times, and nearby bikeshare availability. VDOT plans to continue improving their TIDs at Tysons Corner Center by incorporating more real-time travel information as it becomes available. Travelers, mall retailers, and VDOT can all benefit from real-time travel information. With real-time travel information, customers are able to spend more time in the mall—possibly spending more money at stores and restaurants—instead of at a bus stop or in traffic. Real-time travel information can also alleviate traffic demand at peak times and increase safety for transit users. If a driver knows of likely congested conditions, that driver is more likely to delay their departure, thus decreasing demand. In addition, transit riders do not have to wait longer than necessary at stops if they know when the bus or train is arriving, thus reducing concerns related to weather and crime.

Another program providing real-time travel information comes from the company TransitScreen, which started as a joint program with Mobility Labs. TransitScreen broadcasts all local mass transit options in real-time to any device with internet connection (e.g., kiosks, display screens in lobbies, mobile devices). The company seeks to have their services (display screens) placed at “critical decision points standing between you and whatever trip you’re planning to take,” said the co-founder Matt Caywood. Similar to Tysons Corner Center, TransitScreen has installed displays at a popular shopping center in Toronto. “The PATH (shopping center) is a perfect place to allow folks to maximize their time shopping, rather than waiting for transit,” said TransitScreen COO Ryan Croft. Other uses of real-time travel information have been featured in locations such as bus stops in London.

Logan Dredske is a Project Assistant at SSTI.